Cabling a home or business can seem like a daunting task. You drill holes in walls, cut cable and attach jacks, and running what may end up being hundreds of feet of cable throughout your intended building past a myriad of other types of cables, pipes, and wires. While for some types of cable you definitely want an installer (fiber optic for example), Cat5, Cat5e, and Cat6 cable is simple enough that anyone can do it as long as you keep a few things in mind.
Tip 1: Plan
What will be your needs in the next few years? Cat5 is older and because of that it is slower. It supports speeds between 10 mbps and 100 mbps (in some instances you can get faster speeds but nothing is guaranteed). Do you see your business staying at this speed for the next few years?
Given its age finding replacement cable will become increasingly difficult, and the inability to find replacement cable would require you to cable in an entirely new data infrastructure before you really wanted to.
Cat5e has become the new standard, capable of supporting up to 1000 mbps, and Cat6 is rated for up to 10 gbps (some consider Cat6 overkill). So look to what your business’s needs are, and try to estimate where they will be in the next few years. Nothing is worse than re-cabling your data infrastructure earlier than you had intended when you could have could have chosen the proper cable and maximized its life span.
Tip 2: Voice and Data use the same cable.
Once upon a time you wouldn’t do this. It just wasn’t financially prudent to do so. Instead it was cheaper to use the traditional (and inexpensive) copper wires for your internal phone system and then set up your data network on the category of cable that was available and affordable (Cat3, Cat5, etc.).
Today, with the rise of Cloud PBX systems and VoIP phone services in addition to the decrease in price for cables it is recommended that you do this. Many businesses run their entire internal phone and data on the same network while keeping a single outside telephone line at the entrance point. The single outside line is key. After all you don’t want to lose ALL your business telecommunications ability if the internet goes down.
Tip 3: Use cable management
As opposed to a luxury, cable management is a necessity. It makes both maintenance and expanding the network easier. Purchasing racks and other cable management equipment is an added expense but without them it turns an easy addition or line replacement into a guessing game of which batch of cables goes where. Label the cables, color code them, use Greek letters, whatever you need to do so you know (for example) that cable batch gamma goes to the northwest group of offices and that gamma-one goes to the CEO’s office. Since his internet and phone kept having the issue you know which cables troubleshoot and possibly replace.
Tip 4: Do NOT run cable alongside electrical cables
Data cabling consists of unshielded twisted pairs of wire inside of the cable. This generates a magnetic field that is vital for the cable to actually work. Furthermore cabling is unshielded. It has no protections against the magnetic field generated by electrical cables. If you do this, at best your signal will have static, at worst the signal just won’t make it and you’ll have to re-run all of that cable you just ran.
Tip 5: Be wary of what your cable is near
Fluorescent lighting, most motors, pretty much anything that gives off a lot of interference via electricity or magnetism will do the exact same thing as running your cable next to electrical cables. A good rule of thumb is if it buzzes loudly you should probably avoid running cable next to it.
Tip 6: Know your cable length limitations
The standard limitation for a length of cable is approximately 90 meters. There are specific instances and types of cable in which you may go further (or shorter), but that is on a case by case basis.
Tip 7: Follow local laws, codes, and ordinances
Local laws, codes, and ordinances exist for a reason and that reason is safety either for employees or first responders. If caught you will be fined and made to bring it up to code, if physical injury happens and it turns out your installation was to blame you will be held financially (and possibly criminally) liable. Know your responsibilities. Many states have offices you can reach with questions and are more than willing to help educate you.
Tip 8: Test your infrastructure as you install
You’d think this would go without saying but commons sense is not so common. After you run a cable test it. Don’t run every cable and then test all of them. This way you can determine if you have a problem right away. Nothing is a greater waste than having installed hundreds of meters of cable and finding out that half of it needs to be pulled and replaced.
Tip 9: Follow the standards
Standards exist for a reason. When you ignore standards you risk decreasing quality and efficiency in your data network. There are a number of standards and which ones you use will depend entirely on your needs. They can be found through the Telecommunications Industry Association (http://www.tiaonline.org/standards/).
Tip 10: Stay current
Let’s face it, things can change in any industry, and as such one must stay current with the latest trends. Make studying and learning a habit in order to sharpen your skills and knowledge.